Half Way

half way

I like this photo from a hike we took in December 2017 for two reasons;  firstly because it shows the halfway point (almost) on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques between Vézelay in Burgundy and Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Secondarily because it gives the false impression that we actually hiked that entire way.

The spot, just outside Sauveterre de Béarn, is marked by a pretty little chapel dedicated to St.-Martin

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Sunday Dinner in Orthez

Monfish 2 APr 2017

Monkfish filets from the Golfe de Gasogne, artichokes, peppers, garlic and spring onions.

A rainy Sunday in Orthez with plenty of time to prepare and enjoy a leisurely diner de dimancheSunday dinner in France, especially in the countryside, is a late lunch that serves as the main meal of the day.   The PM meal will usually be something simple, like soup and salad or an omelette.

Apero April 2017

L’heure d’apéro, in this case a glass of sweet wine from Jurançon, radishes and air-cured duck sausage.

Although fish is not traditional for Sunday dinner  (un rôti would be more common, roasted chicken, for example or a roast rack of pork), I make it a rule to follow my instincts when shopping…when I find an ingredient that grabs me, the menu de jour has to follow along.

Monkfish April 2017The finished main course:  Pan-roasted monk fish tail, artichokes, peppers and spring onions sauteed with white wine, and brown rice.

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Does French Cooking Still Matter?

If you have any hesitation in answering the above question with a resounding “YES!”, please check out this article by Paris based food writer Alexander Lobrano.   Alex brings the old time religion, seriously thumping the bible of French culinary excellence.

And I couldn’t agree with him more.

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Grapes redux

Red muscat grapes from just north of Salies en Bearn.

Red muscat grapes from just north of Salies en Bearn.

In the interest of fairness and honesty, here is an update on a post from last week about making grape jam.  In that post, I mentioned (a bit snidely, I am afraid) that the older woman at the Saturday farmer’s market in Orthez, from whom I purchased grapes for jam making, promised a bulk discount but then miscalculated that discount in her favor…so much for faith in human nature.

Well, hold on, because the next Saturday, when shopping at the market, the same woman rushed up to grab my arm and say how happy she was to have found me again.  Evidently, after I left her stand with my grapes, she had realized her mistake fearing  that we would think that she had cheated us simply because we were foreigners, had searched the market and put her fellow venders on alert to look for a “tres grand” americain.  Not having had any luck, she had had to await the next Saturday market day in the hope that we would again be shopping.

She then make up for her error in calculation by giving us a big bag or grapes.

Makes my cynical old heart warm.


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Petite Dejeuner in the Béarn

Oct 2014 yogurt

When arriving in Orthez, our first stop, even before our house, is always our favorite  dairy,  Ferme Lait P’tit Béarnais.  A couple miles up the road from our house, this family-run organic farm features the output of their small troupe of 20 or so of the local tawny brown Bearnaise cows;  raw milk, sometime still warm from the animal, fresh cheese curds, fresh and aged cheeses and the best yogurt I have ever tasted.  This quick detour lets us avoid the horror of a completely empty refrigerator (no milk for morning coffee…nothing for breakfast…nothing at all!).

My favorite way to enjoy their yogurt?  With black cherry confiture, a local specialty.

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Fete de Bixentxo, Ciboure

Jan 2014 bix poster

The Basque fishing port of Ciboure is only minutes from the French border with Spain, on the bay of Biscay.  Because it has no sandy beaches, it has remained an active fishing port and a sleepy neighbor to big sister Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the Belle Époque  beach resort across the harbor.

Each year during January, however,  Ciboure fetes its patron saint, Saint Vincent, or Bixintxo in Euskara, the basque tongue.  Over the course of two weeks, the town is alive with a slew of events and activities:  The mayor of the town offers a aperitif and pintxo reception to all guests and visitors:  The streets are filled with carnival rides, arcade games and food booths;  there are concerts, dances, bals musicals;  traditional basque music and dancing is performed in the streets;  the Mayor of Ciboure offers an aperitif and pintxo hour free for all attendees; there is a communal dinner on the last Sunday of the month. Continue reading

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Merlin roti au four

I am once again in Orthez, with several weeks of down time to look forward to…well, as always, there are things to do in the category of “household improvements”, but that is a pretty well populated category that will extend well into the future, so it doesn’t seem terribly pressing.

Merlin April 2013 plate

And as always, one of the things I anticipate most on returning to Orthez is  the opportunity to cook the wonderfully fresh products found in its market.  Today’s market inspiration is merlin, a flaky white fish known as whiting in English, although, being an Atlantic fish, it is not well known in Seattle.  Today the local fish monger had an abundant batch of these modest fishes at a good price so decided to feature one at lunch. Continue reading

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A la Cloche des Halles

Ouefs Plat Jambon Fromage, at A la Cloche des Halles. Bob Peterson, 2012

After reading my recipe post for Le Pichet and Cafe Presse favorite  “Ouefs Plat Jambon Fromage”, Seattle based photographer Bob Peterson forwarded me these photos.  Seems I am not the only one to have tried this  dish at Paris Bistro a Vin and veritable institution “A la Cloche des Halles”.  Bob notes that there seems to be a lot more ham on the original;  my take is that the staff at la Cloche  distribute the ham differently than we do and uses a plate instead of a gratin dish so the meat is more prominent.  Or maybe Bob got a little extra love during his visit.  Either way, these look pretty tasty.

Thanks to Bob for sharing these photos.  You can check out more of Bob’s work at his website or in this earlier post.

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Orthez, and how we decided to buy a house there.

October 7:

During a morning ride to Paris’ Gare Montparnasse, our taxi driver let us know that train service throughout  France was disrupted due to a work stoppage organized by train conductors to protest a recent  stabbing of one of their colleges.  The TGV to Bordeaux left on time but stopped without explanation several times in mid journey.  Result:  Bordeaux 20 minutes late.

The new A65 or Autoroute d’Auvergne completed in 2010, winds through the lonely foret des Landes, a seemingly endless new growth forest spread across the sandy basin of the Gironde.  I have read that this area was planted in pine trees by Napoleon III so that he would have a continuing supply of timber for the construction of his navies, as well as to help stabilize the constantly shifting landscape of sand.  More recently, a violent Atlantic storm in 2006 was responsible for the destruction of something like 60% of the trees in this area.  Work to salvage all the felled timber continues along the A65 to this day. Continue reading

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48 hours in Paris

The covered Beauvau market in Paris’s 12th Arrondissement is one of the oldest in the city.  It is cradled in the twin arms of the outdoor street market that runs up rue d’Aligre, from the rue de faubourg de Saint-Antione to rue Charenton; 0ne side of the street market features fresh produce and flowers , the other is a “marche des puces” or flea market featuring all sorts of second hand furnishings, clothing, kitchen equipment an a world of odds and ends.  This part of the 12th, bordered by  rue  de faubourg Saint-Antione, is a vibrant mix of cultures, with people from North and West Africa heavily represented in the street and also behind the counters at its bars, cafes and in its market stalls.  If one were to examine the butcher shops lining the storefronts behind the sidewalk market stalls, one would notice that those at the north end of rue d’Aligre are staffed by white   Frenchmen while those at the south end, near rue Charenton, are by and large Halal shops with a predominantly North African owners and clientele.  Continue reading

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